The United States was not beaten by Viet Nam in the conflict of the late 60's and early 70's. The United States was beaten by television.
The Viet Nam conflict was the first war in history that American citizens could watch the inevitable atrocities of war in their living rooms. Flip on the idiot box and, there, for everyone in the household to see, where American troops burning enemy human beings alive, bombing them, pictures of our American boys with their arms and legs blown off. No matter how anti-Communist you were, it was hard to justify ideology in the face of such obvious horror.
Likewise, the Civil Rights Movement of the 60's was won through television. You could hold onto your ignorance of Jim Crow laws and attitudes until you were confronted by televised moving moments of young black students being attacked by dogs or being hosed down with fire hoses for walking down the street.
JFK didn't beat Nixon. Television that showed a young, attractive presidential candidate versus and unattractive, sweaty, shifty one did.
The multi-revolutions of the 1960's existed in large part due to the modern miracle of broadcast TV.
The fight for Marriage Equality was not won by activists or protests. The fight for Marriage Equality was won by television.
Yes, there were plenty of amazing activists who pledged themselves to the cause but what truly changed things was "Will & Grace." "The Ellen Degeneres Show." "Six Feet Under." The increase in including gay men and women in the mainstream popular culture on the televisions of the vast middle of the country worked to 'normalize' the every day existence of gay men and women in the collective consciousness of America.
The renewed vigor of the Civil Rights Movement today (in the form of Black Lives Matter and a host of other, lesser known grassroots organizations) is not due to an increase in marginalization or police murders of black men and women. The renewed vigor of the Civil Rights Movement is due to the increased televising (via the internet) of phone videos of these horrific acts that were always there but hidden from middle America.
We are a visual society. We need to see things for ideas to form as concrete ideology. We love nothing more than a solid story to give us food for thought and to subtlety influence change.
Television shows like "Orange is the New Black" and "Transparent" are the beginnings of 'normalizing' middle America to the idea of transgendered people. If Hollywood continues to place transgendered characters within the fabric of the stories seen by the vast majority of Americans, the tide will change for this extremely beaten down segment of our society.
Lately, I've been wondering how so many people from middle America can support Donald Trump. I mean, I'm certainly not the only one by a long shot. I've also been watching "Homeland," a FOX TV show starring Claire Danes about a bipolar CIA agent in pursuit of an American POW turned Muslim terrorist. It's a good show - well written, well directed and well performed. It's compelling and I watch it while I'm working out.
Last week it struck me. This show (and television programs like the long running "24" and the like) are subtlety 'normalizing' the idea of terrorists among us. The concept that these ISIS fuckers and others are so well organized and focused that they have infiltrated our society and we don't even know it. "Homeland" is telling those in middle America to be paranoid and scared because the boogeyman is fucking smarter than we are.
Similar to the simple fact that most of middle America does not live in giant urban areas but watch a lot of TV that only shows us black men as criminals. And only shows us Muslims as terrorists. And mostly shows us women as the girlfriend or wife.
It strikes me that the push to "diversify" Hollywood is going to have far more impact than simply employing more people of color. As we entice Hollywood to tell more stories of people of color and more stories of our racist society, we slowly infuse these ideas of a rounder, broader, more empathetic America. On the other hand, there is another revolution being broadcast - the one that tells us to be afraid, to take cover, to trust in our authorities. "CSI." "NCIS." "Criminal Minds." "Law & Order."
The revolution wants to be fast and immediate. But the revolution is continually being televised and that takes time and patience and intention.
The real question is which revolution are you watching?